The Breeding and Care of the Thai Red Mountain Bamboo Ratsnake O. P. Coxi
This article is based on my own experience of keeping red bamboo ratsnakes, and is just my opinion, which has been formed by keeping this species for several years and successfully reproducing them multiple times. I got my original red bamboo ratsnakes from a dutch man at the hamm reptile expo in 2010, I unfortunately cannot remember his name as I am writing this in 2017! I paid about 250 euro for my first pair of this species which didn’t sem too bad at the time as they were retailing in the UK for about 400 sterling each. The prices of this entire genus have dropped a great deal since then, and nowadays they have a value of roughly 100 pounds sterling each.
Housing requirements and Natural History:
This species comes from montain regions in Thailand and as the name thai red mountain bamboo ratsnake suggests, often is found on the edges of bamboo forests in the mountains. More specifically only in the Loei and Phuluang provinces at elevations between 2,600 and 3,000 feet(Brown and Markland 2014). They are mainly fossorial when young, and still fairly fossorial as adults. They need to be kept cool and relatively moist. I keep them on cocoa fibre mixed with bark chippings with a moist hide in one corner. Like all snakes you must be careful to give them choices of humidity as they are only in a small terrarium so will get scale rot if kept constantly damp. This species only attains a size of about 60cm for a large adult (I have heard of bigger females but have not seen one), so obviously does not need a particularly large enclosure. I keep my adults in 18 litre really useful boxes. Due to the fossorial nature of these snakes I do not feel any issue with keeping them in this manner. However Tom Middlebrook also has a pair of them, and he keeps his in a ‘bioactive’ glass terrarium with live plants. He also keeps them under a 5% UVB T8 tube. This is a very shy species, so even then they are not seen often, but the choice of how to keep this species is up to the individual keeper, as they seem to breed and do very well kept either naturalistically or in more basic tub style setups.
The baby snakes obviously have to be housed in smaller enclosures, I raise them in ‘Cadbury tubs’ with a small layer of cocoa fibre and a wet hide at the back of the tub. I raise this species individually, and make sure I keep an area of the tub moist as the babies are more prone to getting stuck shed than the adults.
The main issue is the temperature requirements of this species. DO NOT keep them at temperatures exceeding 30 degrees celcius for long periods, they will soon die if kept like this. Much like the slightly more well-known mandarin ratsnake, this species is not very high temperature tolerant. I do not even provide this species with a hotspot as my room temperature is around 24-26 celcius year round. These and mandarin ratsnakes are the only species I have kept without providing a thermogradient, as the ambient temperature of the room appears to be suffiecient for all life processes. I did use to keep them with a heat matt under the tub, but as it was set to 26c it essentially was redundant.
The temperature parameters which I have found this species to do well at vary between 24 and 28 celcius depending on time of year, which is obviously very different to most of the commonly kept colubrids in the UK reptile hobby. It is very important to remember this, as this species is probably not that suitable for keepers with large reptile rooms as they will often exceed these temperatures, depending on the types of species that they keep.
Suitability of Thai Red Mountain Bamboo Ratsnakes as Pets and feeding:
This species would very likely be much more popular, except for one thing! They Bite very readily! Due to their size this does not really matter, but they are very flighty and will strike readily if given any opportunity. These snakes seem to come out of the egg biting, and do not appear to ever tame down.
Thai Red Mountain Ratsnakes feed readily on mice and multi-mammate mice. As these are relatively small snakes, they prefer to have 2 smaller prey items often rather than one larger item I have found.
Feeding the babies when they are fresh hatchlings can be abit of a challenge, I will now disclose how I manage to get them feeding relatively quickly. Like many other colubrids, this species will often feed on ‘tuna pinkies’. These are day old mouse pinkies soaked for about 15 minutes in a small pot of tuna, it would appear the cheapest very watery tuna works best! After soaking the pinkies I tend to leave them in the tub with the baby overnight and usually it is gone in the morning. I usually repeat this process for about 3 feeds before trying them on normal live or defrost prey.
I have also found that the babies seem to have a preference towards multi-mammate mice over other rodent prey choices, while the adults seems to show no preference. I am unsure what this species eats in nature although I would guess that the small babies would eat items like tadpoles and small amphibians due to their propensity for ‘tuna pinkies’, as this technique is usually used for snakes which eat amphibians.
This species breeds very readily with no cooling required. Simply introduce the male to the females enclosure in around November/December time when it is slightly cooler and usually you will witness mating within a matter of hours. I continue to do this for approximately 3 weeks until I am certain that the female must be gravid. This species lays quite small clutches of eggs. I have personally had clutches varying between 9 and 3 eggs at time of writing. It would appear that the first clutch of the year is usually the largest, and any additional double or triple clutches being much smaller of usually no more than 4 eggs. This species can be quite prolific, so it is essential that the female is fed lots of food throughout the spring and summer to get back to condition.